ABC-TV’s Four Corners last night ran an expose on Gavin Menzies’s world bestseller, 1421, in which this “amateur historian” claimed that the Chinese in the 15th century discovered America, Australia and lots of other places in between. Four Corners basically accused Menzies of being a charlatan. Fair enough. But what is not quite so fair is the breathtaking hypocrisy involved.

Among the program’s moving targets was Transworld, Menzies’s international book publisher. The program implied that Transworld was cynical or negligent or greedy (take your pick) for not rigorously checking out its author’s provocative theories.

Transworld is big enough to defend itself, but what was truly amazing was the failure of Four Corners to mention that there has also been a TV documentary version produced, under the beguiling title 1421: The Year China Discovered America? And where exactly was this documentary screened? Why, on ABC-TV last November in two parts on successive Sundays in the prime spot of 7.30pm. Indeed, the Four Corners program relied heavily on clips from this doco. And of course ABC Shops were marketing the book as hard as they could at that time, just before Christmas.

Do they really mean that the ABC itself had none of the responsibility they wanted to foist upon Transworld? Talk about pots and kettles.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

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